1 Corinthians 14:34-35 silent churches

Surprisingly for me, a few Christians are still using 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to silence intelligent, godly, and gifted women in church meetings. Someone left a comment yesterday in response to my article “Did Priscilla teach Apollos?” and quoted 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in full, implying that Priscilla could not have taught Apollos because Paul did not allow women to speak in church.

Here are those two verses, and two more in 1 Corinthians 14, in the Common Standard Bible.

… the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to submit themselves, as the law also says. If they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home, since it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church…
So then, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything is to be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 39-40 CSB (Italics added)

I wrote a reply which I have edited, added to, and posted here.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is not about prohibiting women from teaching. I suggest it is about silencing certain women in Corinth who wanted to learn but were asking too many basic or personal questions during church meetings. Paul’s solution to this problem is that these women should ask their questions to their typically more-educated husbands later in the privacy of their homes.

Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians is all about maintaining order and decorum in church gatherings and Paul silences the disorderly talk from tongues-speakers, prophets, and women. The same imperative Greek verb for “be silent” is used for each of these three groups of people.

~ A tongues-speaker, male or female, is to be silent (sigaō) and stop speaking in tongues if there is no one to interpret (1 Cor. 14:28 ESV).
~ A prophet, male or female, is to be silent (sigaō) and stop prophesying if someone else receives a revelation (1 Cor. 14:30).
~ Women are to be silent (sigaō) and stop asking questions if there is anything they want to learn (manthanō); they should keep their questions for home (1 Cor. 14:34-35). These questions may have been directed to the men and women prophesying: prophecy was so that everyone could learn (manthanō) and be encouraged. See 1 Corinthians 14:31 CSB.

All these people need to hold their tongues and stop speaking in these situations. But 1 Corinthians 14 is not about silencing tongues-speakers, prophets, or women altogether.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40, which contains verses 34-35, is book-ended by verses which show that the issue in Corinth was unruly, unedifying speech. In these book-ended verses, Paul encourages edifying and gifted speech, and he encourages orderly participation in church meetings, regardless of gender (1 Cor. 14:26, 39-40 CSB).

In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul acknowledges that Corinthian women prayed and prophesied aloud in church gatherings, and he doesn’t silence them. Rather he addresses the hairstyles, or head-coverings, of both men and women who pray and prophecy in Corinthians assemblies (1 Cor. 11:5, 14-15 CSB). Furthermore, in chapters 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions several ministries, some of which are vocal, without saying that they are only for men (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:7-11, 28; 14:26 CSB).

This is my view of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a nutshell. I look at several other views in a longer article entitled Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 here.

Image credit: © Nadya Lukic (iStockphoto)

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